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Redskins’ focus in free agency needs to be on their own players

Redskins’ focus in free agency needs to be on their own players

Two weeks from today, the Redskins and the rest of the NFL will start free agency. We are running a series on CSNwashington.com taking a position-by-position look at which players the Redskins might be interested in signing. It started yesterday with the safety position.

Even though new GM Scot McCloughan is committed to building through the draft, the organization will need to sign some free agents from other teams; there are simply too many holes to fill with draft picks.

But the Redskins should spend a minimal amount of their cap space, which currently stands at around $16.1 million but could grow to well over $20 million with some contract terminations and renegotiations, on free agents from other teams.

Instead, the focus should be on signing their own players, the ones they drafted and developed. If you want to know why the Redskins have struggled for so long, get ready for a sobering fact.

Since 1984, a span of 31 drafts, the Redskins have taken 20 players in the first round. Only two of them, 2000 first-round picks LaVar Arrington and Chris Samuels, have signed second contracts with the Redskins. Some, like Brian Orakpo, have stayed on the franchise tag. Carlos Rogers, the team’s top pick in 2005, was kept around another year as a restricted free agent. But for the most part the Redskins’ first rounders have moved on when their rookie contracts were up if not sooner.

How can a team sustain any sort of success if it can’t hold on to its top talent? Or, in some cases, when their first-round picks just aren’t worth keeping?

The team has four first-round picks up for new contracts in the next calendar year. Orakpo will be a free agent on March 10. There is a legitimate case to be made for letting him walk, although the Redskins should at least ask for a chance to examine the best offer that Orakpo gets on the open market before making a final decision.

Next year, Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, and Robert Griffin III all are set to be free agents. The team should work with Williams’ and Kerrigan’s agents to get them locked up for the long term before the 2015 season starts. The little-used term “Redskin for life” needs to be applied to both of them.

Griffin is a different case. The team can decide to activate an option clause in Griffin’s contract that would lock him up for 2016 for a salary of about $16 million. That does not seem likely to happen. The best course of action would be for the Redskins and Griffin’s camp to hammer out a two- or three-year deal with some guaranteed mone and some incentives. Such a deal would give the player some degree of security while giving the team some options to move on if Griffin continues to struggle.

The Redskins’ draft pick retention problem extends beyond the first round. The last second-rounder to sign a second contract was Fred Davis, who came back on a one-year deal after being franchise tagged after his rookie deal ran out. You have to go back to the second-round pick in 2002, backup running back Ladell Betts, to find a second rounder who signed a multi-year extension. The last second-round starter to sign a multi-year extension was 1999 second-round pick Jon Jansen.

How about the third round? Chris Cooley, picked in 2004, is the only player drafted in that round to sign an extension during the free agency era.

Next year is a big year when it comes to free agents. In addition to Williams, Griffin, and Kerrigan, other players slated to be unrestricted free agents are Keenan Robinson, Alfred Morris, and Darrel Young. Instead of shopping for stars from other teams as they have done for so many years, the Redskins need to hone in on targets closer to home.

At some point, a team has to start taking care of its own. For far, far too long the Redskins have either failed to do that or have drafted players that just weren’t worth hanging on to. Both issues need to be corrected if the team is ever going to move forward.

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The Cardinals could be the cure to the Redskins' pass rushing issues

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The Cardinals could be the cure to the Redskins' pass rushing issues

The Redskins have not had a very good year when it comes to sacking the opposing quarterback. They have 31 sacks for the season, 17th in the NFL.

They had a then-NFL best 32-game streak with at least one sack came to an end in Week 10 against the Vikings.

Ryan Kerrigan is doing well with 9.0 sacks to his credit. Preston Smith has five but only a half since Week 6. Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen were forming a solid interior pass rush tandem early in the year but Allen went on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury and Ioannidis suffered a broken hand that limited his playing time and effectiveness.

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

But the cure to the Redskins’ pass-rushing ills just may be coming to town on Sunday in the form of the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

The Cardinals have given up 44 sacks on the season; that’s 31st in the NFL.

Things have gotten worse in the last couple of weeks, with Gabbert going down a combined 15 times against the Rams and Titans.

If you think that the Cardinals may have hit rock bottom, consider that two starters, left tackle Jared Veldheer and right guard Earl Watford, won’t be playing due to injuries.

Will Holden, a rookie fifth-round pick, will start at left tackle and Evan Boehm, who lost his job to Watford earlier this season, will be the right guard.

Of course, the Redskins have to go out and make it happen. The entire Cowboys offense was slumping until they met the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. They can’t be a haven for a struggling unit once again.

In any case, it is an opportunity that is in front of the Redskins. It’s up to them to take advantage of it.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Need to Know: State of the Redskins, Week 15—Looking for motivation

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Need to Know: State of the Redskins, Week 15—Looking for motivation

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, December 14, three days before the Washington Redskins play the Cardinals at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky news conferences and open locker room after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Broncos @ Redskins Christmas Eve (12/24) 10
—Redskins @ Giants (12/17) 17
—NFL Draft (4/26/18) 133

State of the Redskins

Top storylines

Jobs on the line? It’s been the conventional wisdom that the jobs of Jay Gruden and his staff are safe, barring a complete collapse at the end of the year. Well, after two ugly losses we are 40 percent of the way to a complete collapse. The Redskins don’t even have to look good down the stretch, they just need to win two of the final three and be competitive in the other. Gruden might be able to survive a couple more games like the Cowboys and Chargers debacles but if that happens I wouldn’t want to be him on January 1, the day after the season ends.

Shutdowns started—Jordan Reed going on injured reserve could be the first of a few moves to end the seasons of players who won’t be healthy in time to play in more than one or two games. It lets the player dive into rehab and it lets the team sign and get a look at a player who can stay on the roster through the offseason and compete for a roster spot in 2018. There could be more coming up until Week 17.

Playing out the string—Last week, when the Redskins were technically alive for the playoffs they apparently couldn’t muster enough motivation to prepare properly. It will be interesting to see how they react this week with their playoff odds reduced to zero.

Last three games

Sunday vs. Cardinals (6-7)—The Cardinals have fallen even further than the Redskins. Two years ago, they were on their way to a first-round bye and an appearance in the NFC title game. This season they are 6-7 after suffering from a raft of injuries, including losing their starting QB and All-Pro running back David Johnson. Can two teams with nothing to play for put on an entertaining show?

Christmas Eve vs. Broncos (4-9)—And in comes another team that has fallen even further and harder. The Broncos were lifting the Super Bowl Trophy two years ago. Now, the defense that spearheaded that run is still solid but without a reliable quarterback, they are having issues. At this point, your guess at if it will be Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, or Brock Osweiler starting at quarterback is as good as mine.

New Year’s Eve @ Giants (2-11)—Will this game be bye-bye to Eli? Changes are coming to New York and Manning, sometimes a Redskins nemesis and sometimes a player who gift-wrapped wins for Washington, could be on the way out. The Redskins could be playing to avoid the kind of upheaval that has already begun in the Big Apple.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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